Face painting and how to become a face painter

Face painting and how to become a face painter

Parma Violent walked in off the street and got a job as a face painter. From brushes to skin conditions to creativity and face painting community links, she shows you how to become a face painter too.

Have you ever started applying your make up only to take a look in the mirror half an hour later and find you’ve covered every square centimetre of your face with doodles? If so, I have only two things to say to you..

1: Nice one! Don’t remove it without photographing it for posterity!

2: Have you ever considered becoming a face painter?

I’ve been face and body painting professionally for two and a half years, and doodling on my face is pretty much how I started out. Let me take you back to a simpler time, when I first met my soon-to-be boss Jo, and tentatively enquired about the “staff wanted” sign on her face painting stall in the Trafford Centre. I had no formal art training, outside of pre-GCSE teaching at school. However, I have always had a passion for painting and drawing, and going out with my dad on a weekend to sit in a muddy field and paint the excitingly muddy fields around me. My facepainting boss gave me a 4 hour probationaly shift the following Sunday, and although facepainting a trial-by-fire kind of affair, I fell in love with it!

So, no qualifications needed. What do you need to start painting faces (or, if you prefer a more artsy-fartsy way of putting it, ‘painting on living canvas’)?

First things first. Although you don’t need to have been dragged around art galleries and seminars by your umbillical cord, you do need to be able to handle a brush. But the chances are that if you apply make-up with any degree of accuracy, you’ll be able to deal with the step up to facepainting pretty easily with time.

Secondly, you need a great deal of patience. You don’t immediately recreate the sistine chapel on somebody’s mush and shouldn’t attempt to. Start off small. Bite off more than you can chew and you’ll end up being disappointed. Also, although you can work exclusively for adults if you prefer, it’s understandably a lot more popular with children, and therin lies the real need for patience. You will get to meet a whole range of different people and some amazingly funny and brilliant little kids, but the yang to this rather pleasant yin is that you will also have to deal with some little terrors too. Keep your cool, grit your teeth, and hope for their benefit that they grow out of it before they’re big enough to get their asses royally handed to them in puberty (because, here’s the fun part – they SO will). If you work with younger customers, keep smiling, try to engage them in conversation and make them laugh (though maybe not while you’re doing a very intricate, delicate part – a fit of the giggles can make it near impossible).

Thirdly, you need to do some research on common skin infections. Some of this is really gruesome, but you in particular need to be aware of what all the herpes variations, impetego, and other bacterial and viral skin disorders look like, so you can spot them before you start working on someone. Naturally, you don’t want to catch it yourself, but do try and refrain from reeling back in terror and flinging holy water on them. Just politely ask if they’re aware of what their skin condition is, and if not, suggest that they seek treatment for it. DO NOT and I mean EVER EVER EVER paint on someone with any of these conditions. If you pass it on, not only is it just pretty nasty and careless, you will more than likely find yourself with a hefty lawsuit on your hands (and although you can make a bit of cash out of said lawsuit, it won’t be enough to pay for the pool that mummy and daddy scabface will be wanting after you infected them or their brood.) So hygiene is paramount. Clean your brushes and sponges after every session thoroughly with hot water and antibacterial cleaner, keep your hands clean, keep your fingernails short (and clean) and change your painty water regularly between customers.

Lastly, the bare bones of what you need to get started: The paints. The two brands that I would recommend would be Snazaroo and Grimas. Both are non-toxic (which I suppose is kinda important), hypo-allergenic and water-based, so they are very easy to remove with warm soap and water. Get a kit with a selection of colours (small palates can be picked up for around £15). Also get a few brushes in varying size and some sponges to apply the bases with. Glitters always go down a treat too, though admittedly I end up using them more on myself. Win-win!

The main thing to bear in mind with face painting is that it’s all about building up your confidence, and with that will come the speed and precision that’ll allow you to be really creative. It’s an amazing job to have, and as I said you will meet hundreds of wonderful people, become the go-to person for any and all fancy dress occasions with your friends, and get to have fun while creating something great and making somebody’s day.

Face painting is not the most sturdy of jobs, but it’s flexible and the most fun you can have getting paid with your clothes on. (Unless you’re going for a real niche there!)

face painting and how to become a face painter

Parma says… start with something simple

face painting and how to become a face painter

Parma’s butterfly design

  bodypainting